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Ofcom launches full assessment into BBC Three’s linear return

The assessment now has six months in which to conduct a BCA into the proposed television channel before issuing both a proposed and final determination

Ofcom has completed its initial assessment of the BBC’s plans to bring back BBC Three as a linear channel and is now launching a full competition assessment.

In March the BBC announced plans to reinstate the channel by January 2022, stating it “will do more for diverse, underserved audiences across the UK”.

Under the terms of the broadcaster’s Royal Charter and Agreement Framework, the BBC may only make a ‘material change’ to its UK Public Services if the the broadcaster concludes that any such proposal satisfies a Public Interest Test (PIT).

In June, Ofcom published an invitation to comment on the proposed launch, which it says received 14 responses from stakeholders.

According to the regulator, many of the respondents welcomed or had no objections to the BBC’s proposal to relaunch BBC Three as a channel.

However, respondents raised issues including:

  • concerns that the BBC’s proposal could have a negative impact on other broadcasters if BBC Three took their viewing share;
  • concerns over the public value impact of the proposal given the trends in viewing habits of young people and availability of other similar commercial channels;
  • whether the public value benefits of the channel justified the disruption they anticipated from accommodating BBC Three within the EPG;
  • that the proposed proportion of UK originations and first-run UK originations broadcast should be higher;
  • questioning how the benefits to the production sector would be realised.

Ofcom said following its review of the BBC’s proposal as set out in the PIT, along with the input it received from stakeholders, it is satisfied that the BBC’s proposal comprises a new UK Public Service, as reintroduction of BBC Three as a new broadcast television channel would not fit within the existing services in the Agreement. It has thus concluded that this is a material change to the UK Public Services.

It added that given the change also raises a number of potential competition issues, impacting several parties, Ofcom considers a full BBC Competition Assessment (BCA) is necessary to allow further scrutiny of its plans.

The Assessment now has six months in which to conduct a BCA into the proposed television channel before issuing both a proposed and final determination.